This is the second installment of my coveted Holiday Gift List, anticipated by 10′s of people county wide! Last year’s naughty list had some real winners like hand-crank pasta machines and infinitely sharp knives. I stick by any of those items as a great purchase for you and yours, but to expand on the list I’d like to offer some great finds from 2013 including local favorites and pantry staples.
Benny T’s Vesta is a no-brainer. My Pops invented it, we make every jar by hand with local chiles, and it’s the greatest addition to your food since salt. If there’s someone, anyone, in your life that enjoys spicy food – this is the gift for them.
Big Spoon Roaster’s Chai Peanut Butter is a festive punch in the mouth. It doesn’t come cheap, but a little bit goes a long way.
Sling Shot Coffee’s cold-brew and concentrate bottles are an ideal gift for any caffe’ buffs in your life.
I only recently received a few bottles of White Whale mixers out of Durham and they’re already a standard on the bar in the Giusto kitchen. The Auntie’s Old Fashion mixer is a personal favorite.
My nan had this exact same Le Creuscet pan. I remember standing over her as she fried pork cutlets and peppers in this heavy-weight. My parents have the original but these new throwbacks are pretty close in size, shape and weight.
All-Clad makes excellent pots and pans, but you pay an arm and a leg at stores like William & Sonoma or Crate & Barrel. A solid, tall pasta pot like this may run up to $150 in the mall. My advice? Check out the local Home Goods or TJ Maxx for All-Clad, Le Creuscet and other quality pans.
Carbon Steel pans like these are perfect for searing or pan frying. Try scoring a few at the restaurant supply shop rather than shelling out the big bucks at Sur La Whateva’.
A grilling basket is an awesome way to get great char on fragile items like whole fish, calamari, lamb chops, etc. without losing them to the sticky grates.
I was skeptical of the Vinturi wine aerator at first too, but 3 years of satisfied sipping has made me a believer. I find it works best for younger, cheaper wines by taking away that youthful bite and smoothing things out. It’ll make that $3 Chuck taste like a $5, easy!
These are basic pantry items, but they will drastically change the quality of your food – even when served raw.
I had the pleasure of visiting Castello di Volpaia when I lived in Firenze. Their vinegars, both white & red, are the best I’ve ever tasted and will add tons of flavor to your dishes. Not to sound like a complete tool, but they will change the way you use vinegar. Nah, that makes me sound like a dick no matter what.
Trapani Sea Salt, from a small island off Sicily, is incredible on seafood, vegetables, and added to good olive oil to dip.
Olive Oil is something I’m asked about often. There’s one product that is consistently top-notch and that’s Frantoia. Unlike strong, peppery olive oils from Tuscany, this fruity, fresh oil from Sicily is perfect for every use under the sole including frying. It’s also easy to find and not outrageously expensive.